Five years after Long Beach rebuilt its iconic boardwalk in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the city has received a final reimbursement from the state to cover the remaining cost of the $44 million project.
Last week, the city announced that the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services had processed the last $4.4 million owed to the city, representing the state’s share of the construction costs.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency covered 90 percent of the project’s costs, while the state funded 10 percent.
The 2.2-mile boardwalk, destroyed by Sandy, reopened in October 2013, when a reconstruction project that the city began that April was completed. It was rebuilt with more durable materials, including a tropical hardwood for its planks, a retaining wall and concrete edges in the center of the span.
“We were promised this money in 2013 by the governor, that he would pick up the entire 10 percent that FEMA didn’t cover for the boardwalk,” City Council President Anthony Eramo said. “What FEMA wouldn’t cover, we rebuilt better than it was, and to Governor Cuomo’s credit, he valued us building it back stronger, smarter and safer.”
In April, city officials said the city had been reimbursed $39 million by FEMA, but it was awaiting $4.4 million from the state. Initially, they said they expected the remaining reimbursement in six to eight months.
Sandy caused about $200 million in damage to Long Beach, and including the boardwalk costs, the city said in April that it was still owed $7.6 million by FEMA and the state.
In May, the City Council voted unanimously to pass a measure that allowed Long Beach to issue a $4 million tax-anticipation note to cover the remaining costs associated with the boardwalk reconstruction while it awaited the state reimbursement. That month, officials said the city had submitted all the necessary paperwork to the state showing that the project was completed.
The tax-anticipation note, officials said, were needed to cover borrowing costs associated with a separate bond- anticipation note that had expired after it was renewed a maximum of three times since the boardwalk was rebuilt.
The borrowing measure in May came after State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office announced in March that it had recategorized the city’s level of fiscal stress from “moderate” to “significant,” the highest level under DiNapoli’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System, citing short-term borrowing as a factor in fiscal 2017.
Officials, however, attributed the level change to the reimbursements that the city had yet to receive from FEMA and the state for Sandy rebuilding costs. Last week’s reimbursement, officials said, allows the city to retire the tax-anticipation note and stop paying “unnecessary” finance charges.
“We did expect [the reimbursement] to be quick, but we knew that delays happen,” Eramo said. “This was another $4.4 million that we can take off the books, and I think we are slowly moving forward.”
Department of Public Works Commissioner John Mirando attributed the remaining reimbursement to a lengthy “close-out” process for the work, in part to ensure that the city received a full payment.
“You don’t want to close a project out until you’re sure everything is complete,” Mirando said.
The city was awarded $1.7 million in additional FEMA money that has been earmarked for the construction of new restrooms along the boardwalk and a new lifeguard station to replace one that was destroyed in the storm, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes work on dune crossovers as part of a coastal protection project that is now under way.
“If we closed that out, we wouldn’t have gotten that additional funding,” Mirando said. “You just want to be sure that there are no other needs for a particular project.”
The city, Mirando said, has yet to close out smaller Sandy-related hazard-mitigation projects at City Hall, the city’s water and sewage treatment plants, and the Recreation Center.
“With the hazard-mitigation projects, we have an engineering firm determine what needs to be done to harden the buildings, and then we submit those cost estimates to FEMA, and now we’re waiting for approval for them,” he said.
Mirando and other city officials lauded Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, as well as Deputy Public Works Commissioner Joe Febrizio and Superintendent of Street Maintenance Bill Martone, for their efforts in helping the city recoup the remaining boardwalk costs.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky said he also “pushed for this much-needed infusion of cash that the city deserves,” especially during times of financial trouble. “This reimbursement will go a long way toward helping the city’s finances,” Kaminsky said in a statement. “I would like to thank Governor Cuomo and Senator Schumer for their continued commitment to rebuilding Long Beach after Superstorm Sandy.”